Metro mayors nix TransLink property tax hike plan

They had approved an increase in 2011 as backup measure.

Lower Mainland mayors have said they’re mad as heck and they won’t take it anymore.

And the Metro Vancouver board agreed with them, and on Friday endorsed a Mayor’s Council plan that nixes the two-year TransLink property tax hike of about $23 for each home. It told TransLink to find the money elsewhere.

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin initially voted for the proposal as a stopgap way of keeping transit improvements going forward and because the provincial government said all funding options were up for discussion.

“That turned out not to be the case,” Daykin said.

“The trigger for me was, they said they were not prepared to talk about this, or this, or this – for me, it’s off the table.”

Daykin said the Mayor’s Council’s job is to review TransLink’s budget, not look for funding solutions.

Area mayors had OK’d the hike in 2011 as a backup measure, to raise about $60 million for TransLink, in case new funding sources from the province didn’t materialize, although they fully expected Victoria would deliver.

Daykin said during this spring’s provincial election Metro Vancouver will be copying what Calgary did and set up a website, inviting provincial candidates to offer their solutions for transit.

“We want to know what these guys will do, too.”

He expects transit and transportation to become an election issue.

“I think it’s frustrating, that’s the way I would characterize it.”

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters says she’s been on the mayor’s council for more than a year and the discussion about TransLink funding never ceases.

“Everybody wants something, but nobody ever wants to pay for it.”

Walters pointed out that the Mayor’s Council was set to release its own suggestions for paying for TransLink on Friday as the provincial election moves into high gear.

Mayors in Langley, Surrey and White Rock had previously opposed eliminating the property tax hike, fearing that might torpedo the new Highway 1 express bus over the Port Mann Bridge and King George Boulevard B-Line.

Those projects are proceeding, but it will take more money than TransLink now has to fully implement them as originally proposed – higher frequency on the Highway 1 express bus and extending the King George B-line to White Rock.

There’s no money in the budget for other improvements proposed in 2012, including a broader bus service expansion and extending SeaBus service on Sundays and holidays.

The regional Mayors’ Council is expected to pass a TransLink-prepared supplemental plan to formally rescind the temporary property tax hike by May 1.

Mayors continue to demand new cash sources for TransLink, including a regional sales tax of up to 0.5 per cent, an annual vehicle levy or a share of B.C.’s carbon tax, plus longer-term implementation of comprehensive road tolls.

Despite the latest decision, TransLink’s regular annual property tax increase is still proceeding.

Provincial law allows the transportation authority to raise its total property taxes, which have gradually climbed to almost $300 million, by three per cent each year without the mayors’ approval.

An owner of a home assessed at the regional average of $712,000 paid more than $230 to TransLink in 2012, while a business assessed at $2 million paid more than $3,000.

The bills for each property tend to go up by one to two per cent a year, not the full three per cent, because some growth in TransLink property tax comes from new construction.

 

– with Jeff Nagel files